Real Madrid’s 2009-10 La Liga campaign has certainly been one of the best in terms of competition and fluency in the game, for a long time now. They may be second in the league standings, but the improvement has been visible; the record for number of points in the league shows how dominant they have been throughout the season, next only to their arch rivals Barcelona, in terms of draws and losses. They won 31 games, the same as Barcelona, but lost four games as compared to a solitary defeat for the Catalans this season.As a result, Barcelona led the table with just 3 points more on the last day of La Liga, leaving the Los Merengues trophy-less even after a more-than-good performance throughout the season.
The Revolutionary Men: Gonzalo Higuain, Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo
Real Madrid came into the headlines, much before the start of the 2009-10 season, when Florentino Perez returned to the club as its president and announced to the world that he’d bring back “Los Galacticos”. The footballing world then saw him spend over £200m for superstars from almost every football giant. When Perez came to power, he found himself with a Madrid side that required thorough rebuilding. Iker Casillas remains a goalkeeper of the highest calibre, but the defense did not inspire confidence. Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa were immediately recruited to try and tighten the defence; this time round, Perez had to buy the ‘Pavones’, as well as the ‘Zidanes’. In the midfield, Lassana ‘Lass’ Diarra was joined by Alonso, who was signed from Liverpool, to form a pair of Premier League-hardened midfield schemers. It was from these signings onwards, where the overload of talent began.
The Dutch-Duo Irony
The Dutch pair of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were sold to make room for an array of attacking players – Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United, Kaka from AC Milan, Karim Benzema from Lyon. It is ironical that Robben and Sneijder have performed exceedingly well for Bayern Munich and Inter Milan respectively, that they are being said to be the architect of their present clubs’ success, domestically as well as in Europe, where both the teams will compete for the Champions League glory at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. The two players will return to Madrid after a year to play in the Champions League, which was the very reason for their sale in order to accommodate the superstars who would ostensibly achieve European glory for Real.
Karim Benzema and Kaka who came to the club at the expenses of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder failed to perform upto the expectations.
Manuel Pellegrini, the former Villarreal coach, did some sterling work to mold the new Galacticos into a functional constellation. They’ve not been without problems; Kaka and Benzema have been disappointing, both outshone by players already on Real’s books, the slow yet crafty Guti and the prolific Gonzalo Higuain. Real also crashed out of the Champions League to French side Lyon – a result that may yet enforce a change of manager. But in La Liga, they’ve been phenomenally impressive – 31 wins from 38 games, a goal difference of +67 and a massive 102 goals scored; and yet, they’re not Champions. To be fair to Real Madrid and the efforts the team has put in, they were a class apart from 18 of the 19 teams they were competing with, and doing so is in itself a huge success.
TheHardTackle© La Liga Statistics
|Avg. goals per match||2.58||3||2.16||2.68||3.16||2.21|
|Avg. goals conceded per match||0.63||0.58||0.68||0.92||0.95||0.89|
|Biggest victory||6 – 1, vs Real Zaragoza||6 – 0, vs Real Zaragoza|
|Biggest defeat||2 – 1, vs Atlético Madrid||0 – 2, vs Barcelona|
|Failed to score||2||5|
Real Madrid, at times, seemed over dependent on Higuain and Ronaldo; although they did plunder more than 50 goals between the two, it just wasn’t enough to cover the mistakes, no matter how few they were , for Real Madrid. Here’s a look at the individual player ratings, along with a brief description of how each player did.
TheHardTackle© Player Ratings
Iker Casillas: 8/10
For a keeper who is highly regarded as being one of the best in the game, 8 on 10 is a disappointment. Casillas has been brilliant yet again in guarding his fort, but has given away a few too many cheap goals as well. Comparing his performance with last season, when he seemed to be the only defender, this season has been a little disappointing as per Casillas’ standard.
Jerzy Dudek: 7.5/10
He played only 2 Copa Del rey games, and was good as a keeper. He should be sold, for his good, to a team where he can do more than warming the bench; he deserves more game time, and still possesses more quality than a few regular keepers.
Sergio Ramos: 8.5/10
He has improved a lot from previous season, both defensively and offensively.He is arguably the best right back in spain at present with the aggression and urge to go forward. Ramos seems to have taken inspiration from the brazilian maestro Cafu in his approach towards the game, and this season has been wonderful for him.
Alvaro Arbeloa: 8/10
Arbeloa has probably been the best signing in Madrid’s defense, and a much needed one too, showing maturity in his role. Arbleoa has played mainly at the left back position due to Los Blancos lack of experienced and dependable options in that area of the field, and has been pretty good at that position. He would have got a rating of 8.5 too, but he needs to be a bit more aggressive in terms of tackling. A reliable defender, to say the least.
He was brilliant in the games he played, and probably would have carried the momentum if the injury had not stopped him.
Raul Albiol: 7.5/10
Albiol has carried his good form from his days at Valencia, filling the void left behind by Cannavaro. His only weakness is to challenge effectively in the air for the ball, otherwise he has been good as a center back, better than old Cannavaro atleast.
Ezequiel Garay: 7/10
He’s filled in the place for Pepe decently so far, both offensively and defensively. However, he’s a little slow and still needs improvement, which would materialize with more games under his belt.
Christoph Metzelder: 4/10
Madrid is lucky that his contract runs out at the end of this season, and he’s already announced his departure to Schalke. Good riddance.
He forgets his role as a defender quite often. However as a winger, he does have the potential to put in some quality crosses for the forwards to pounce upon. He has been injury free for the whole season, and has proved to be a quality backup winger. He gets an 8 from me, simply because he fits into the Los Blancos’ attacking mentality perfectly.
Well, he seems promising, but the problem is that Pellegrini just can’t play everyone. He went into the ignore list after a couple of outings, and has more minutes than just Metzelder and Ruud.
Fernando Gago: 6/10
He is one player in the Madrid team who doesn’t know what his exact role is, being clueless on the field each time he gets a chance nowadays. He needs to move out and find a club that will offer him enough playing time and end his confusion.
Mahamadou Diarra: 6.5/10
Despite being a quality defensive midfielder, he did not get enough outings this season, and later on he got injured. He is the kind of player who would have been rated 8, but 6.5 here is justified for the simple reason of being outperformed by teammate Lassana Diarra.
Lassana Diarra: 8/10
He’s played the role of a middle man between defense and midfield brilliantly. The importance of a defensive midfielder in a team is very high, and he fits in that position perfectly. He does need to commit less number of fouls though.
Kaká : 7.5/10
Although he may have not performed according to the stature that he has built for himself in the past few years, records this season say he has provided a decent number of assists for Madrid and scored eight times. His performance has been pretty much ordinary by his standards, but he had injury problems as well. Therefore, 7.5 would be an apt rating for the Brazilian superstar.
José M. Guti: 8/10
Guti is the kind of player who gives it all when he’s on the field, but with age being a factor he has been rusty too. The long time servant of the club has now decided to leave after the season, and its probably for the good of both Guti and Real Madrid. His class on the ball provide a different dimension to the midfield which cannot be praised enough, and with a double pivot his defensive shortcomings are less apparent. At 33, his physical condition may not suit the Real Madrid first team anymore (as his unwillingness to train can testify), but his skill on the ball and passing and vision still had a great impact on the game whenever he played. Here’s a salute to the man’s brilliance, vision and loyality.
Xabi Alonso: 9/10
Alonso is a player who will finish the work assigned to him at any cost and in the time he’s offered. He settled into the team very quickly, and provided Real with some quality performances. He’s a genius whose work remains invisible, because of the simplicity with which he does it. He would have got full marks, had he won the battle against Xavi Hernandez when Real faced Barcelona, but nevertheless 9 is what he gets for yet another brilliant season.
Rafael Van der Vaart: 7.5/10
He has been pretty good when he has played, and honestly speaking is not much of a starter for Madrid. He stayed at the club for his World Cup aspirations, and to maintain a reputation to accomplish those aspirations. Although he is a misfit for the team, he can be a creative midfielder for some other club. A player who might leave Madrid this summer for want of regular playing time.
Esteban Granero: 8/10
He got a handful of opportunities in the absence of Kaka and Ronaldo in the mid season, but he couldn’t really do exceptionally well so as to make him a regular starter. He still is an amazing and a perennial substitute; his craft of floating all over and doing a little bit of everything is always needed. He shoots tremendously well (just like De la Red), he crosses really well, he has eyes for a through ball and he fights for balls on the defense. Hopefully we’ll see more from El Pirata next season.
Well, obviously Spain’s darling and Real Madrid’s Legend needs to understand that there’s a time for everything, and to retire gracefully is what he needs to do, just like Guti. In a squad full of youngsters, it is sad and unfortunate that there’s no place for him now. He played quite some time this season, but clearly has lost all the sharpness and temperament which made him a feared striker.
Karim Benzema: 7.5/10
Its been a strange season for the Frenchman; while he was busy figuring out the intensity of the transition from French ligue to La Liga, he got a bit lost. He is still smooth on the ball, but is often caught in two minds around the box, and having to play wide has affected his chances to score. He’s surely a promising player, and probably will do good next season.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 9/10
26 goals in 29 appearences, a few assists, and a whole lot of magic, is what Cristiano Ronaldo is all about. He’s simply been phenomenal. It took some time for him to adjust to the environment in Spain, but once he was settled, the oppositions were blown away. But again, had he performed well in the El Clasico matches, Real would have been champions. So, I give him a rating of 9 for a performance that deserves 10.
Gonzalo Higuain: 9.5/10
Player of the Season for Madrid -no doubt about it. If there was one man who stood up to the occasion almost every time, it was El Pipita. He played fewer minutes than Ronaldo and yet outscored him with 27 goals this season; he outperformed Raul and Benzema for the regular striker’s spot in the squad. He overwhelmed the crowds with some astonishing goals and gameplay. He simply made a fool out of Perez’s decision to buy Benzema for a huge chunk of money.
Both Ronaldo and Higuain formed a lethal combination upfront for Madrid and scored some sensational goals; here’s a look at a few goals by the two firing guns of Madrid
The Special One’s affair
With the more-than-possible firing of Pellegrini, the Special One’s shadow is closer than ever. Jose Mourinho has already said he is nearly done in Italy,and also claimed he would like to manage Real Madrid. A couple of days ago, he even announced it as clearly as possible, letting everyone know that Italy was not his home, and that it was not easy to coach there.
The ball is now in Florentino Perez’s court. If he does bring in Jose, the ego battles will surely be ignited; with players having a prima donna status in the squad, it will be very interesting to see how Jose Mourinho fares at Madrid.